Review Summary: A masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Joe Hisaishi has written the soundtrack for numerous Miyazaki classics. Among the list are NausicaĆ¤ of the Valley of The Wind, Porco Rosso, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, and of course Miyazaki's crowning achievement, Princess Mononoke (or Mononoke-Hime if you prefer). This landmark in cinema was also a great feat in music. Hisaishi's blend of European and Japanese classical creates the perfect soundscape for a vibrant story of the ages.
Never before have sound and image come together in a more perfect harmony. Hisaishi poured his everything into this work, and it shows. Every single note is impeccably placed to evoke any range of emotions. Fear, nostalgia, longing, mourning, wonder, purity, love, if you can think of it, it's probably been covered by this album. These compositions are almost tangible in the way they grip you. Each one has a distinct character that allows it to expose a new development in the story. Even if you haven't seen the film (how could you not have at this point?), by the titles and the expert song-craft you could very well create your own tale to fit the engulfing landscape created. That's where the true genius lies. Even without the movie the soundtrack was written for, the music holds its own more than capably. That's a rare attribute with soundtracks. The art of writing music specifically for a film (that could be played on its own as well) has mostly been lost by the popular motion picture industry, and for 30+ songs to tell their own story with such apparent ease and grace is wonderful to experience.
Every time I turn this album on, I get chills. It's got an indescribable quality that demands an intense emotional response literally every time it is heard. It's as if Joe Hisaishi was writing directly to the soul of everyone who would ever be lucky enough to hear these beautiful sounds. I used the word "perfect" a couple times earlier. That's exactly what Princess Mononoke is. From the brooding intensity of "The Demon God", to the delicacy and tenderness of "Ashitaka and San", and even the playful curiosity of "Kodamas", this masterpiece is essential not just for fans of music or film, but anyone willing to open themselves up to this heart-wrenching achievement of art.